Babcock: ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’ deserves a renaissance


Activision and Vicarious Visions’ “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2” remake will hit consoles and PCs this September. 

Trevor Babcock

Ska-punk trumpets and guitar riffs blaring against the sounds of grinding metal have invaded my brain since last week’s announced return of “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.”

A remake of the series’ first two games will arrive on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One on Sept. 4, 2020. The remake is by Vicarious Visions, the developers behind the successful “Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy” remake. Fans of skateboarding games can now breathe a sigh of relief. 

Quality skateboarding games by major developers have been absent in recent years, and the last few attempts at reviving the “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” franchise were universally panned. “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5” was a buggy and unfinished cash grab, and “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD” failed to recreate the addictive gameplay of the originals by using a slow-paced physics system.

Many fans consider “Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland,” which released all the way back in 2005, to be the last worthwhile game in the series.

This was one of the last “Tony Hawk’s” games by the series’ original developer Neversoft, the same developer behind the “Guitar Hero” series. Parent company Activision later took Neversoft off both franchises and subsequently shut Neversoft down in 2014. 

Since then Activision has done little to compete with EA’s successful “Skate” franchise, which took a simulation-style gameplay approach as opposed to the arcade style of the “Tony Hawk’s” series. 

“Skate” garnered an equally loyal fanbase, but is suffering an equally painful drought. It’s now been a decade since “Skate 3” released in 2010.

Fans of skateboarding games have been so starved of content, pressure to announce “Skate 4” now becomes a meme at every annual E3. A fan-made mod of “Tony Hawk’s Underground 2” called “THUG PRO” now touts itself as the ultimate “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” experience, complete with levels from nearly every game in the series as well as online multiplayer.

But why do skateboarding games have such a strong cult following behind them? As a “Tony Hawk’s” fan I can say one major aspect is the fast-paced and rewarding gameplay. Skateboarding in a “Tony Hawk’s” game looks absolutely nothing like skateboarding in reality, but racking up massive points with insanely long combos fails to grow unsatisfying with hours and hours of gameplay.

Thankfully the upcoming “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” remake is in good hands. However, for me it’s hard to be too excited for another remake with the last one still fresh in my mind, even knowing Vicarious Visions is poised to do the gameplay justice. Hardcore fans may be wary of the game’s $39.99 price tag while “THUG PRO” exists on PC for free. 

The intuitive and arcade-style gameplay of the “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” series has certainly helped preserve the lifespan of the first two games. However, the challenges, trick system and maps become a bit repetitive for long time returners of the series.

It’s not until the later games such as “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4” and “Tony Hawk’s Underground” where the missions and settings become much more memorable and the series began shifting its focus to a narrative story. 

No matter how ridiculous or cheesy the “Tony Hawk’s Underground” story gets, the rags to riches skateboarding adventure stands the test of time as one of the best single-player gaming experiences to this day. The story, characters and settings have made me revisit the game to its completion many times throughout the years since its release. Also, “Tony Hawk’s Underground” includes one of the most comprehensive gameplay and trick systems in the series, making for the most enjoyable arcade skateboarding feel. 

But it’s the absurd moments and wacky plot that gives the best games in the “Tony Hawk’s” series a strong sense of personality and heart, which the original two games won’t be able to match even if the gameplay catches up to speed. I believe a “Tony Hawk’s Underground 1+2” remake would generate much more hype and spark even more interest for a new, original game. Even a “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1-4” remake may have been enough to effectively erase franchise fatigue. 

Hopefully “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2” can do just that, but it will have to do it with classic gameplay mechanics and nostalgia factors alone, while sadly lacking as a complete gaming experience when compared to the series’ later entries. 

But, for any game in the “Tony Hawk’s” series to be a true success, it must have a good soundtrack. 

“Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4” and “Tony Hawk’s Underground” both had soundtracks that made a monumental impression on me as a kid. So much so I still listen to many of the game’s featured songs and artists today. The soundtracks were diverse, containing a blend of punk rock and hip-hop, from both classic and underground artists, with heavy metal and more sprinkled in. 

Without playing these games in my elementary school years, my affinity for abrasive and abstract music may never have taken off like it did in my high school years. With the new “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2” remake, including much of the original soundtrack, I hope at least a handful of “Tony Hawk’s” newcomers can have a similar music experience. 

As a treat, I’ve put a link to my favorite songs from the “Tony Hawk’s” games below to end this love letter to the “Tony Hawk’s” franchise. I also created a playlist for what I’d put together if I had complete control of a new “Tony Hawk’s” game soundtrack. I aimed for a similar blend of genres from previous soundtracks, while representing classic artists to the series as well as modern ones.